APPROXIMATELY AN HOUR LATER—12:04 A.M.
“It was Sandra Pelt, Your Majesty,” I said calmly, even as I looked at the Were bitch. She was struggling to break free of the silver chains I’d had her restrained in.
Fortunately, she was also gagged.
With one of Pam’s creations—a ball-gag coated with silver.
Though Weres didn’t have the same reaction to silver as vampires did—which was a pity—Sandra was clearly in pain because of the silver holding her down and keeping her mostly quiet.
“What?” the king asked.
“Ms. Pelt led a group of Weres and fairies into Fangtasia. They attacked while Sookie was being punished. I’m afraid that Victor is dead.”
“What?! How?!” Felipe demanded angrily. “How could you have allowed this to happen?”
“I’m afraid I was slightly incapacitated at the time, so our enemies had the upper hand for a few minutes. In addition to Victor, eleven others were killed.”
“Incapacitated? You? How?” Felipe demanded. “How the fuck did you allow Weres to get the upper hand on you?”
“Weres and fairies,” I reminded.
“Fine! How?” he questioned again.
“I ordered some Royalty Blended to honor Victor’s presence. It seems that the beverage was laced with fairy blood, which caused me and many others to be,” I paused, “inefficient at taking care of the threat.”
“Fairy blood!” the king gasped.
“Indeed, I suspect that Victor told you of an incident at his own club the other night when someone tried to give Pam and myself fairy-laced blood.”
“No. He didn’t,” Felipe returned in a clipped tone.
“Oh!” I said, feigning surprise. “I would have thought that Victor had told you. Perhaps, he felt that the matter had been contained.”
“Well—if you knew of a possible threat, then why were you not more careful about your own blood supply?” he accused.
“I’m afraid that my bartender may have been in collusion with the attacking fairies and Weres—or he was simply incompetent. Or,” I paused, working hard to keep the amusement out of my tone, “perhaps the Fae have figured out a way to conceal their scent!”
“What!” Felipe yelled out. “Is that even possible?”
“Well—Niall can hinder his scent when he is in my presence,” I shared. “Perhaps, that Fae ability goes farther than I thought.”
“You think Niall did this? You think he was behind the attack?” the king asked.
I rolled my eyes at the king’s inane question and let silence build up as if I were contemplating it.
“Well—Northman! Do you!?”
“No,” I said after “considering” for a few more silent seconds. “Though Niall might have been angry that I was punishing Sookie, I cannot fathom that he would have had time to plan the attack I witnessed tonight. Moreover, Niall respects my claim upon Sookie,” I added. “And he would understand my need to punish her for threatening the blood bond.”
“Really?” he asked skeptically.
“Indeed,” I responded. “Niall is old and believes in traditional ways. Plus, if he wanted to kill me, he would do so directly. I can tell you for certain that he wasn’t in Fangtasia tonight. Moreover, Sookie seemed to be one of the targets—if not the primary one. And we cannot forget that Sandra Pelt, a known enemy to my bonded, was involved. And that fact would exclude Niall.”
I rolled my eyes again. The king should have been quick enough to draw that conclusion for himself. Obviously, his cape must have been tied too tightly around his neck—cutting off blood flow to his brain.
There was a pause. “How—specifically—did Victor die,” he asked.
I smiled. A sword wielded by my own hand.
It had been glorious!
The look of shock on Victor’s face.
The sound as his body had “splatted” onto the stage.
Followed immediately by the thud of his head hitting the floor.
“Victor was in my office with Sookie when the attack began; although he’d not taken the fairy-tainted blood, he was distracted. Ms. Pelt and a fairy I didn’t recognize attacked Sookie and Victor specifically. I am almost certain—as I suggested before—that their aim was to kill Sookie, but Victor protected my bonded valiantly, gravely injuring Ms. Pelt in the process. However, the fairy staked Victor. I am sorry, Your Majesty. I know that the Regent was a valuable asset to you.”
The vampire king growled. “Where is Sandra Pelt now? Is she receiving medical aid so that she can be questioned?”
“She is in front of me,” I said with a wink at the tied-up Were. “However, like I said, Victor gravely wounded her. I’m afraid she bled out before she could be questioned or treated by Dr. Ludwig.”
“Ludwig? You called her in?” Felipe asked.
“Of course,” I grinned, turning to the little “troll” who was tapping her foot behind me.
“I want to speak with her!” Felipe demanded.
I winked at Ludwig. “Of course, Your Majesty.”
I handed my phone to the “good” doctor.
“What!” Ludwig demanded into the phone.
Secretly, I loved how she had no more reverence for a king than she did for anyone else.
“You treated Sandra Pelt?” Felipe asked.
“Yes,” Ludwig answered shortly.
In fact, the doctor had put a Band-Aid on a “cut” Sandra had gotten on one of Thalia’s fangs when the Were had tried to get away from the vampiress.
“And?” Felipe followed up.
“There was absolutely nothing I could do to save that girl’s life,” Ludwig pronounced. “Now—are you done questioning me so that I can finish my work?”
“Are there any Weres or fairies left to question?” Felipe asked her.
“Not that I see,” Ludwig said—right after she closed her eyes. Earlier, she did tell me that she refused to lie. It was good that she could be creative about telling the “truth.” We had that in common.
“What about Victor’s guards?” Felipe asked.
“I could scrape up their remains into Ziploc bags for you,” she said dryly.
“Who do you have left to treat?” he asked.
“Sookie’s Were guard was concussed,” she said, looking at Jannalynn Hopper—who was, indeed, concussed.
Another “truth”—though another misleading one.
Felipe sighed. “Fine! Give Northman back the phone.”
I winked at the doctor again and momentarily contemplated acting affronted that Felipe had wanted her report because he didn’t believe my word. The doctor held up four fingers and wiggled them, reminding me that I’d agreed to pay her four times her going rate for her time, and then she “popped” away.
“Well—at least you secured adequate medical care,” Felipe snarled.
“Ludwig makes up with expertise what she lacks in bedside manner.”
“And Victor died protecting your bonded?” he asked, sounding very skeptical.
“Regrettably,” I replied.
“Well—where were you when that happened?”
“I was in the club. Unfortunately, I had drunk some of the tainted blood and was caught up longer in the main attack than I would have liked. I had been giving Victor some time alone with my bonded—as part of Sookie’s new training.”
The line was silent for a moment.
“Victor was with Ms. Stackhouse? Training her?” he asked.
“Yes. As part of my bonded’s punishment, I felt it best to humble her and to make it known that vampires who are my superior can have her body and blood when they desire. I felt that Victor would be an ideal first lesson for Sookie in this new reality so that she would be more,” I paused, “compliant should Your Majesty decide to partake.”
“You expect me to believe this? You—who have always done all you could to keep Sookie to yourself?” he asked with barely controlled rage.
“As I told you last night, Your Majesty,” I said evenly, “Sookie Stackhouse has betrayed me, thus killing any affection I may have felt for her. I will see to her needs and protect her. And I will even treat her congenially if her behavior merits it, but I will no longer allow her the latitude I once did.”
“Eleven were killed in addition to Victor?” he asked coldly.
“Yes,” I returned. “Oh, wait, twelve if I include Jock.”
“You will get me a list of those who have met the true death by sundown tomorrow,” he instructed in a clipped tone.
“Of course,” I said evenly.
“What about the fairies?” he asked. “Did you recognize any of them?”
“I’m afraid not. As I said, Niall was not among the attackers, nor were any of the fairies I’ve seen in his company before,” I returned.
“How many were there?” he asked.
“Fairies? Five that I saw,” I responded.
“And how many Weres?” he asked, clearly trying to make me stumble in my story.
“Ten or more,” I answered. “I haven’t yet studied the video footage; once I do, I can offer you a more accurate count.”
“Why attack Sookie at a club full of vampires?” he asked suspiciously. “Surely, there are other places that would have been easier.”
“The large number of attackers indicates that the fairies and Weres also wanted to eliminate as many vampires as possible. I don’t want to sound too alarmist, but it is possible that Niall’s enemies were trying to take revenge on us for killing their leader, Breandan.”
“What were the enemy’s losses?” Felipe asked.
“About half of the Weres were eliminated. Three fairies were killed, including the one who killed Victor,” I reported. “The others withdrew once the tides had turned in our favor.”
“So you avenged your Regent—at least,” Felipe growled.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“But you did not protect him.”
“No,” I owned. In fact, I’d done the opposite of protecting him.
“I will see to your punishment when I arrive tomorrow night,” Felipe growled.
“You are coming here?” I asked, completely unsurprised.
“Yes. Sandy will be in touch with the details,” he said.
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
“In the meantime, I want you looking into this fairy threat. If these are, indeed, the enemies of your bonded’s forbear, then Niall needs to be partly responsible for their eradication. I don’t want to risk war with the fairies at large.”
“I will do what I can,” I responded. “But I must warn you that my relationship with Niall has been tepid ever since Victor prevented me from immediately going after my bonded and preventing her torture at the hands of Neave and Lochlan. As you can imagine, such a slight was seen as betrayal by Niall. Come to think of it, Sookie’s disobedience seems to have stemmed from around that time, too. But I do not wish to speak ill of my former Regent’s decisions. I’m sure he did as he thought best at the time,” I added with full knowledge that Felipe, too, had been frustrated at Victor over the Fairy War situation.
“Have the videos of the attack ready for me to study tomorrow night,” he ordered.
“Of course. Despite the unpleasantness, I look forward to your presence and your counsel, Your Majesty,” I remarked as I looked at Sandra and then Jannalynn. The latter was still unconscious, but her pulse was strong. The former was still struggling against her bonds. I stepped over Jock’s dusty remains and made my way to the dungeon stairs. “Given the situation, I am at a bit of a loss—especially since there may also be an issue with the . . . .” I deliberately stopped my sentence as I paused on the stairs.
“What other issue could there be?” Felipe growled.
I grinned, trying to imagine the be-caped ruler’s sour expression. “Well—the part-demon, Desmond Cataliades, showed up at Fangtasia during Sookie’s punishment, though before I gave her to Victor for the night. Cataliades claimed to be her godfather, but that was the first I’d heard of it.”
“Cataliades is your attorney!” Felipe yelled.
“Yes—but he certainly wasn’t here in that capacity tonight.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Perhaps the telepath is becoming more trouble than she’s worth,” Felipe grunted.
“Oh—she is certainly trouble,” I said, having to work hard not to let the smirk show in my tone as I continued up the stairs.
“She attracts much attention,” he said.
“Indeed,” I agreed. “Would you like for me to kill Sookie?” I asked, even as I emerged from the basement and winked at my bonded who was waiting for me in the hallway. “Or I could allow her to break our bond—cut ties with her.”
She stuck out her tongue at me.
I really wanted to put that tongue to better use—for at least a week.
The king’s slithery voice interrupted my lascivious thoughts. “Just wait until I fucking get there before you do anything else regarding the telepath!” Felipe yelled before hanging up.
Fat chance of that! I intended to do many things to my bonded that night.
“Oh—he’s angry,” I said, smirking at my mate.
“Well—you’ve made a mess of things here,” she smirked at me.
“Surely, the shop-vac will clean up most of the ash,” I grinned. Vampire remains might be “messy” at first, but once they turned to ash, there was nothing that a high-powered vacuum couldn’t accomplish. I thought of Pam; she so liked being the one to perform the clean-up.
She generally sang “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan when she vacuumed.
My amusing, charming child.
Sookie shook her head at me as if to chastise me for being flippant about the body count, but I could tell through the bond that she was also amused.
My grin turned into an earnest smile. I was discovering that it was moments like this one when I felt the most love for Sookie—and the most love from her. It was clear as a bell that she disapproved of killing. It was also clear that she’d come to accept the fact that I had a different attitude about killing enemies than she did. Sookie had finally recognized that what had been happening in Area 5 between Victor and me—and between Felipe and me to a lesser degree—was a war that would inevitably end in violence. And she’d finally trusted that—while she and I were different—we ultimately shared similar notions when it came to the concept of justifiable killing. She’d finally learned that—like her—I wouldn’t kill except in the defense of me and mine or in the case of war.
As she smiled up at me, I couldn’t help myself. I took her into my arms and kissed her with every bit of passion in my body.
A throat cleared behind us. It was Thalia. Desmond Cataliades stood beside her—his bloody sword still in his hands. Clearly, he’d had “fun” that night too.
“Report,” I asked Thalia. I couldn’t help but to notice that she held the shop-vac, and it was already full of ash.
Victor and his minions had been “cleaned” up.
I grinned widely.
A/N: Thanks to all of you who have sent me well-wishes and “welcomed me back” after my hiatus. I hope you enjoyed this chapter.
Please comment if you have the time and inclination.